Central Region to revolutionise rice production

BY: Shirley Asiedu-Addo
Central Region to revolutionise rice production
Some rice farmers harvesting their crop

Madam Mary Asante, 64, who has been a rice farmer for 25 years says the knowledge and technical knowhow that comes to smallholder rice farmers in the communities as a result of an initiative, the Rice Value Chain Improvement (RVCI) Project, would be a game changer for them.

She told the Daily Graphic, "It is obvious from what we are seeing that a lot of our efforts have gone to waste in the past. For a plot of land which could have given me about 22 bags of rice if I had employed the right seeds and technology, I only had 16 bags of rice."

"We work really hard but get little because we don't adopt the most efficient inputs," she added.

Stating that rice farming had been the main source of income for her family, with two of her adult sons also into farming of the crop, she appealed, "We need loans for many of the youth here to come into rice farming. We need money for land preparation and machinery to sow the rice too.

"Now the business looks more lucrative with all the technical and seed support we have had under this project.

"Touching on the impact the project has already created, Madam Asante said, "We saw that the fertiliser that was applied was in the right quantities. We saw how the field was prepared and with the right rice seeds, it's not surprising what the results were. With about an acre harvested, they are getting more than 20 bags of rice. That is very good."

Overseers of the RVCI project, valued at $8 million and funded by the Korean government in the region, say it would change the fortunes of smallholder rice farmers, boost the economic fortunes of the region and significantly reduce the nation's rice imports.

It is also projected that the Central Region will soon be acclaimed for its rice production due to a revolution in the growing of the crop brought about by the RVCI.

The project is being implemented in five districts of the Central Region with 765 farmers and the beneficiary districts include Gomoa East, Assin Central, Assin North, Assin South and Twifo Atti-Morkwa.

Smallholder farmers in the beneficiary communities are already excited about the initiative which has so far planted and harvested a few acres of rice, which would be given to farmers as seeds to start the rice revolution.

What is RVCI?

The RVCI, launched in June 2021, is a project to improve the rice value chain in the Central Region.

The project is funded by the government of Korea through the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), with the prime goal of improving the quality of life of farmers in the region through increased rice output, strengthened post-harvest management capacity, improved rice processing and packaging and strengthened farmer-based organisations' capacity and marketing support.

The farms cultivated to supply farmers with seeds were also experimental fields for the projects.

As part of the project’s interventions, 48 metric tonnes of high-quality AGRA rice seed will be produced with selected farmers, in the seed rice value chain and supplied to paddy rice growers under the project over a three-year period.

New technologies

An Agriculture Director working with farmers on the project in the Assin Fosu municipality, Mr Hubert Dela Fiawoo, said the adoption of the new high yielding seed rice technologies was certain to increase yields of the farmers and better their living conditions.

"It's also going to provide a lot of machinery which rice farmers lack in the Central Region,” he said, adding that the project would also work on processing and packaging to increase value.

"A milling machine is being put up to improve processing. A seed storage facility too is being built to store all the seeds produced and shared to the farmers for cultivation," he stated.

Maiden harvest

The maiden harvest of the demonstration fields at Assin Akropong in the Assin Fosu municipality was witnessed by 30 farmers and public officials, including officers from the Assin-Fosu Municipal Department of Agriculture.

The President of the Rice Growers Association in Assin-Akropong, Mr James Korankye, expressed gratitude to the project team and the Korean government for the knowledge, skills and technology demonstrated by the project in the cultivation of the seed rice.

He noted that the good agricultural practices and technology employed in the cultivation had demonstrated to farmers the benefits of adopting good agronomic practices.

He said, "the physical characteristics of the crop were impressive; the rice headings were good, panicles were heavy and grains looked attractive."

Rice imports

In 2018, rice imports to Ghana totalled $451,881.

With the population rising each year, Ghana is said to have imported 950,000 tonnes of rice in 2020 alone.

With the rice import bill in excess of US$ 500 million, the government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, seeks to improve rice production, reduce importation and the value chain by 2023, while tackling poverty.

These goals are expected to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the country.

The Project Manager, Dr Kim Sang-Yeol, explained that the high-quality seed would be supplied to beneficiary farmers in nine communities of the project.

He stated that the project aims to supply eight tonnes of rice seeds in 2021, 16 tonnes in 2022 and 24 tonnes in 2023 to paddy producers.

He assured the farmers that the project would ensure effective transfer of improved rice cultivation techniques alongside the supply of high-quality rice seed to increase rice productivity by about 10 to 20 per cent. This, he said, was intended to increase the income of local rice farmers.

Mr Sang-Yeol also indicated that the project would also address access to efficient support services along the rice value chain.

He noted that the KOICA was also providing agricultural machinery, processing and packaging facilities and technology along the entire rice value chain; from production to marketing to increase food self-sufficiency in rice production in Ghana.

Madam Asante called for soft loans and inputs for farmers to sustain the use of the knowledge acquired.